How to Handle a Debt Collection Agency's Phone Calls - Could It Be Bogus?

Updated on October 24, 2012
J.W. asks from North Charleston, SC
16 answers

Hi Moms,

I just started getting phone calls from a debt collection agency (stellar recovery) who left a message for me using my maiden name calling from my 'childhood' area code. I have never left bills unpaid so I wonder if this is bogus or if someone may have stollen my information. Do you have recommendations on how to handle this? I'm afraid to answer the phone call where someone might collect more information on me to potentially do more harm. Or, should I start by simply checking my credit report? Thanks for the help!

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answers from Boston on

Speak to the company. You only have to give away more information if you want to. They won't force you to divulge more info. tHey will essentially tell you what company has hired them to collect the debt. If you don't recognize the company you can always ask them to send you the details of the transaction, i.e. bill.

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from El Paso on

Because of where I live, I FREQUENTLY get phone calls from collection agencies looking for S. Rodriguez. Admittedly, that IS my name, but let's face it. In El Paso, that's a pretty darn common name! At any rate, when they call, the first thing I ask them when they say who they are is "What are the last four digits of the Social Security Number for the person you're looking for?" They can tell you the last 4 without any breach of confidentiality, and more likely than not, it's not you. If it's not your last 4, tell them so, and they probably won't bother you again, or at least not until whoever this other person is leaves another bill outstanding. :) If it IS your last 4, then definitely get on the ball and figure out what on earth is going on. Good luck!

12 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

I'd definitely start with pulling your credit report. I check mine often.

After that, if there is nothing on your credit report, answer the call and let them know that you are not the same person. There is probably someone out there with your same name. Be sure that you give out NO personal information (birthdate, social security, address, etc.) If they say "we'd like to verify that you are/are not this person," say "okay, what do you have for my birthdate? What do you have for my SSN? What do you have for my employer?" You should only have to verify who you are if YOU are the caller calling in to a business, not the other way around. If they want your info, it's a phishing scam.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Here is some information from the FTC:

You should review your credit report if you think there's any chance of fraud. They may also be looking for someone you were/are related to. My DH and I and even the sks have gotten collection calls for DH's ex's ex and my xSF. They data mine for anyone who might get them to that person, so that's where the maiden name thing might come in. You can answer the call and tell them that you don't know how to contact that person (if that's what it's about - try a reverse lookup on the # they called from) and if they continue to call you will report them.

"Where do I report a debt collector for an alleged violation?

Report any problems you have with a debt collector to your state Attorney General’s office ( and the Federal Trade Commission ( Many states have their own debt collection laws that are different from the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Your Attorney General’s office can help you determine your rights under your state’s law."

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I don't see the harm in answering the phone, IF you are prepared.

Be prepared to not give out any personal information. Period.
Be prepared to ask who they are and why they are calling you, how did they get this personal info, etc?
Again, be very firm that you will not give out any personal information over the phone. You can also ask for a call back number, and their business name, name of person you are talking to. And call them back to ensure they are legit.

This above approach would remove all doubt what they want.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Albuquerque on

Check your credit report. You can get free copies every 12 months via the website that the government set up. I would also answer the call and see what they have to say. Don't provide any personal info, just try to figure out if they have their facts straight. If you think it's legit, ask them to mail you a letter with the details written out. That way you can look it over and see if you do owe money.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

When they call, tell them they have the wrong phone number. Or answer with an accent. People change their phone numbers all the time.

And yes, of course first do the credit report check and see if there truly is anything outstanding. If not, then keep telling them they have the wrong number when they call.

Most businesses will attempt to call you FIRST before hiring some collection agency - because they give up some of the owed amount to pay the agency. Sounds like a scam/wrong person.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Check everything, if you have a return phone number, name of caller etc., report them to the "no call" list, make a police report. Notify your bank, credit union, credit card company's.

If you actually speak with someone, tell them to NEVER call your number again.

Try and record everything you can.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

It could be bogus, or someone else could have stolen your info. You can check as others have suggested, but you can certainly say you give no info over the phone. You can ask them to send their claim in writing, but that's presuming they have your address (which they can get via reverse phone look-up). Or, if they ask for you by your maiden name, you can truthfully say that no one by that name lives at this address. Be firm and tell them they have two choices: send something in writing to the person they are looking for at the address they have on file, or they can accept that no one by that name lives here.

Sometimes they are looking for someone else in the family - I got a call for a relative who had never lived here, so that's what I told them. If they didn't want to give me their info (which they didn't) I told them they couldn't have any of mine. They called me, so I said the onus was on them to convince me that I'm the person they wanted.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

LoveTeaching Math's advice is excellent. I'd go with that. If you don't answer the phone, they will just keep calling. It makes evenings hell because they'll call every 1/2 hour or so. Answer the phone and figure it out.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Yes, I would check your credit report.

I would talk to the company. If you don't they'll just keep calling. Don't give them any personal information. Ask what debt are you calling about and take it from there.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Start with your credit report. If there is a legitimate collection it will be on there. It will also have their phone number and other useful information.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I would start by pulling my credit report. If there is something on there - then contest it.

Then call the company back and get the information from them - the reason they are calling you - do NOT stick your head in the sand and ignore it. That will just lead to more problems.

EVEN IF your credit report does NOT show anything - call them back. Just to find out WHAT they are talking about. You do NOT have to give them ANY information other than your name. You can give them the last 4 of your social. but really - if they are legit they will verify that way.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

It never hurts to check your credit report.

If someone calls and asks for a name other than the one that I go by, I tell that they have the wrong number. They do.

I have asked them to tell me the name of the company that says I owe them money and in what amount. When they tell me, I say, "Thank you. I'll take it from here and contact them directly." Then, I hang up.



answers from Oklahoma City on

They won't listen and there's not much you can do. They are a bill collector and if you tell them to not call you they just put your number on the call twice as much list...

I think that answering the phone and telling them that no one by that name lives there. Be firm. Tell them you don't know anyone by that name. They should eventually stop calling.

Your legal name is your married name so no one lives there by that name. It is someone's old name but not anyone's current name. So one with that name exists anymore.....a bit of a fudge of the truth but not an out and out lie.

you can also act like it is you then sound all Oh wow, someone really did that???? I can't believe a person would really not pay a bill like that.

The more you make it sound like you were just telling them that was you so they would tell confidential information the more they will decide this is a wrong number. PLUS you get to find out about what the bill is about without committing to it being you they are trying to get hold of.

This may be some long lost bill that you did pay off but they lost the accounting of it. That does happen. I always tell everyone who pays their bill at work that even though they used a check or credit care, and especially if they pay with cash, that they need to keep their receipts just in one is perfect and they do lose checks or paid in full stamped bills.



answers from Jacksonville on

Check all 3 credit reports. The next time they call, answer the phone and tell them they have 30 days to send you something in the mail validating the debt. If they ask for your SS # DON'T give it!!! If they tell you your SS number, don't verify it either. DON"T set up any promise to pay checks either, if you do owe this money and it is past the statue of limitations, it will start the clock back over. IF this is a bogus thing, then some one is gonna get your money! Most collection agency try to collect on old debts or try to make new ones just so they can make money and they will use scare tactics to get you to pay up like call your boss, arrest you, etc. None of these things are legal and they can't happen either.

I've been doing my homework on this stuff as my hubby's ex ran up a lot of debt they 8yrs they were together and I have a paid off/closed Sears card from along time ago that suddenly has $2,000 on it in collections from a $200 charge yet isn't on and never has been on my credit report!!! There are companies out there trying to rip you off!!


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